How much do you really know about Bandung? Checkout these amazing things to do in Bandung
A destination on the rise, Bandung woos travellers with the promise of cooler climes, gorgeous greenery and sensational shopping that can even match the mega mall scene of Jakarta. There is a multitude of cool things to do in Bandung, thanks in no small part to its buzzing youthful vibe (there is a huge student population) and the mild temperatures – it sure beats being stuck on an overcrowded Transjakarta bus on a hot and sticky day.
True, it has now grown into a huge sprawling metropolis but there are large pockets of leafy greenery dotted across the city, and those gorgeous velvety green hills are but a short cab ride away.
Nostalgia fans will find lots of Bandung points of interest to quench a thirst for arty colonial history, while Bandung Indonesia nightlife attracts countless up-for-it clubbers each weekend from far and wide. The city is ringed by mighty volcanic peaks, hot spring resorts and serene tea plantations so respite from the urban buzz is close at hand.
The surrounding nature and sheer variety of stuff to do and see in the lush hills is perhaps its greatest gift. Be sure to spend a few days in Bandung to really make the most of it. Read on and get clued up on what to do when you’re in town with this comprehensive Bandung travel guide.
1. Take a morning tea walk
Bask in glorious views of the valley, stroll between rows of tea bushes and soak up the fresh air of the Bandung countryside with a visit to the Malabar Tea Plantation. Set amid gently rolling hills, the plantation has its own souvenir and tea shop where you can bliss out over a freshly brewed cuppa.
Located close to the city, it is a plantation on an epic scale. Like a lush green carpet draped over gently rolling hills, the air is cool and a light mist often floats just above the greenery. The sunrise walk through the fields is the main attraction but it’s a delightful retreat to explore anytime of the day.
Like most of Southeast Asia’s classic tea plantations, Malabar has a long and venerable history, built on European colonials’ fixation with a good cup of tea. It has been producing oolong and jasmine infused blends for more than 120 years. There is an old colonial style villa which has been transformed into a guesthouse (a good bet to stay overnight if you want to rise early for the sunrise walk) and see the houses of plantation workers designed in typical Sundanese style.
There is a large network of meandering trails to bike or hike through the tea estates and a hot springs nearby to later soak those aching bones. Beyond this, there is little in the way of tourist facilities here – if quietude is your cup of tea, Malabar Tea Plantation might just be your perfect brew.
2. White water rafting in Pangalengan
Hold on tight, it’s going to be bumpy ride. Prepare to careen down small waterfalls, bounce between rushing currents and get well and truly soaked on this adrenaline-pumping adventure. There is a steady torrent of water flowing down from Bandung’s hills into several rivers including the fast moving, frothy Pangalengan River.
It all starts rather benignly with not even a hint of the heart-pumping mayhem in store later. First up is a paddle around the rather serene Situ Cileunca Lake for some paddling practice before its time to face the wrath of the white water.
The torrents of the river flow at great speed down several levels along a meandering water course of several miles. Some of the drops are near vertical and pretty nerve-jangling – be prepared to get VERY wet. The river itself is quite narrow and there are manifold twists and hairpin bends along its course which ultimately means more heart-in-mouth moments. You’ll certainly feel the adrenaline pumping through the veins.
This wild ride is directed with great skill by a rafting guide perched at the back of the inflatable raft, who seems to know every single ebb and flow of the river. Yet it is a real team effort – rafting is all about coordination, so it’s a great activity to be enjoyed among a bunch of fun-loving, fearless friends.
3. Hike the volcanic craters
What could be more interesting in Bandung Indonesia than hitting the heights? A scenic drive from the city of Bandung, the enormous Tangkuban Perahu crater is known for spectacular views. Visitors can poke around steaming hot springs and bubbling mud, or even boil eggs in the steaming pools of water at the crater.
There are actually three different craters accessible, where now hardened hot lava flows virtually resemble an extra-terrestrial lunar landscape. The volcano still rumbles with wisps of sulphur floating in the air and on the northern slope of the peak is ‘Death Valley,’ so called for its occasional build-up of poisonous gases. Tangkuban Perahu is deservedly Bandung’s top natural attraction.
There is a steady throng of visitors daily and its popularity has spawned a small community of souvenir sellers and food shacks perched perilously along the crater’s edge.
Another nearby volcanic crater to tick off your list is Kawah Putih, a sulphuric lake with a dreamy aquamarine hue. It is one of the two craters of Mount Patuha. Make sure your camera is charged and ready because it has a real mesmerizing quality almost like being in a newly discovered tropical lagoon, such is the colour and clarity of the water. The high crater walls which enclosed the lake on all sides only add to the unreal effect.
4. Grab a bargain at the factory outlets
They say no one leaves Bandung empty-handed. Shopping in Bandung revolves around the bustling factory outlet scene which means top brand-name items at a fraction of their usual prices. Bandung’s urban street style fashions have taken off in a massive way in the last couple of decades, attracting shoppers from across Asia and made some local designers household names.
Yet Bandung is also brimming with cheap finds for penny pinching fashionistas too. Shop for shoes, bags and more clothes than you could possibly carry at Rumah Mode, Blossom and Grande among dozens more outlets scattered around the city.
There are three main districts to tick off – Dago Avenue, Jalan Setiabudi and Jalan Riau, which all have clusters of outlets ranging from luxury to bottom rung basement bargains (where fake designer labels are more ubiquitous than the real deal). Denim lovers should definitely make tracks for famous Jalan Cihampelas, aka ‘Jeans Street.’
It’s a bustling retail hub, housing the good, the bad and the ugly of the denim fashion world, and the crazy superhero style shop displays are a bizarrely engaging sight to behold.
5. Lunch on the lake
At the Lembang Floating Market north of Bandung, you can dive into traditional Indo delights prepared and cooked on the water from cute, vibrantly coloured sampan boats. The food is just as flamboyant too. There are a host of multi- coloured calorific sweet snacks like kue lapis layer cake and banana fritters sprinkled in a mountain of choco-cheese, along with traditional bites like grilled fish, bakso meatballs, steaming bowls of noodles and rabbit satay. If you’d rather greet and not eat the rabbits, there is a petting zoo with dozens of cute bunnies and geese to feed.
Feeling a little guilty and want to work that big lunch off? Just rent a pedalo boat and paddle away around the lake. There are also numerous traditional eateries lined up on terra firma plus attractive gardens filled with fearsome looking Sundanese puppets and scarecrows. Other kid-pleasing attractions here include a mini train and ziplining, or just simply kick back for a blissed out hour or two in a rented cabana.
6. Stroll Bandung’s historic streets
Having morphed into a sprawling modern metropolis, it’s easy to forget Bandung’s roots as a key colonial outpost in Java for Dutch colonials. Thankfully, much of its glittering past is still standing and waiting to be explored. The cool Bandung Indonesia weather makes it fairly comfortable to get around on foot too.
See how old and new merge in the heart of the city at Jalan Asia-Afrika and Jalan Braga. Take a historic walking tour to discover the stories behind the graceful colonial-era Dutch buildings. Feel the nostalgic vibe at the alun-alun (town square) looking out across at the Art-Deco inspired masterpiece Gedung Merdeka. It now serves as a museum housing exhibits relating to the 1955 Asia-Africa Conference which took place during the Cold War era.
It features a wide range of artefacts, images and documentary film detailing the political landscape of the time and the global movement for world peace. Another beauty for your Instagram feed is the neoclassical Gedung Sate building, characterised by a vibrant miss-mash of Euro-Asian design.
Then take a stroll down Braga Street Bandung to discover a world of pastry stores, antique shops and Indonesian art. With historic Bandung hotels, it was the place to be during the 1920s heyday with Euro-style bakeries and boutiques, a few of which are still operating today. Much as it was in the decadent pre-war years, Jalan Braga today is still a bustling hub of lively bars and pubs after dark.
7. Saddle up and become a cowboy
Don a 10-gallon hat and jump in the saddle for a day transported to the Old Wild West. The badlands of North Bandung don’t exactly resemble the parched desert of Arizona or Texas, but you can still channel your inner cowboy at De’Ranch in Lembang. A fun day of escapism includes extensive horse riding treks in full cowboy attire, cowboy cook-outs, gold panning, and a raft of more modern pursuits such as zip lining, archery, biking, zorbing and boating.
The lush five hectare site is dotted with references to the Old West with old wagons, tepee tents and totum poles, and quintessential BBQ cowboy cuisine is served up in the food outlets. There is a ton of more cool stuff for kids too, particularly those interested in learning about horse care, farming and conservation. This being fashion obsessed Bandung, De’Ranch also has its very own outlet store selling cowboy themed couture.
8. Learn to play the Angklung
If you love new melodies and are obsessed with seeking out authentic culture, you can’t miss an afternoon making sweet music at Saung Angklung Udjo. Angklung is the traditional musical icon of Bandung – made entirely of bamboo tubes. Established by noted musician Udjo Ngalagena, Saung Angklung Udjo is a full-on exploration into the Angklung culture, with musical workshops, daily Angklung orchestral performances, dance and ‘wayang golek’ puppet shows, bamboo handicrafts and various other exhibits.
To add to the authenticity, it is set in traditional Sundanese buildings including the main performance auditorium, and the lush shady grounds are filled with tall bamboo trees. It’s an atmospheric place with an almost mystical aura about it, and the sound produced by the Angklung is both complex and intoxicating.
Conclusion – The great outdoors right on the doorstep
Bandung’s sobriquet as the cultured European style ‘Paris Van Java’ only tells part of the story. In fact Bandung is a metropolis than cannot be easily pigeonholed. There are just too many compelling contrasts, which is what differentiates it from virtually every other big metro area in Indonesia.
The big city downtown brashness morphs effortlessly into serene garden suburbs and stunning scenery of volcanoes and lakes. Herein lies its greatest gift to the curious and adventurous traveller – the ease in escaping the urban hubbub and exploring the lush hinterland of green hills and mountainous peaks.
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Ray Montgomery is a seasoned travel copywriter and journalist based for more than a dozen years in Southeast Asia. Ray’s big passions are eating, tweeting and constantly seeking the next perfect ocean sunset.